REACTION: PR industry council warns BioNTech and Twitter for attempt to avoid scrutiny from vaccine equity activists

REACTION: PR industry council warns BioNTech and Twitter for attempt to avoid scrutiny from vaccine equity activists

Release date: 9 August 2023

Responding to news that Deutschen Rates für Public Relations (DRPR), Germany’s Public Relations industry body, has issued a warning to BioNTech and Twitter for discussing restricting posts from vaccine equity activists, Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Policy co-lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said:

“Pharmaceutical companies must realize that they cannot shut down criticism when they fail to supply lifesaving medical technologies like COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries. The companies must publish their full interactions for public scrutiny.

“The pharmaceutical industry is known to resort to threatening governments and attempting to censor activists in order to maintain their monopolies and to avoid sharing vaccine technology. Activists are concerned about companies applying similar tactics, especially as governments negotiate a pandemic treaty.”

Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now, said:

“It’s chilling that big pharma corporations believed they could use their vast resources to shut down the demands of campaigners, who simply wanted Covid-19 vaccine technology to be shared widely. It’s also a plain statement of their priorities during the pandemic: while billions were kept waiting for a vaccine and scientists in lower-income countries were calling for support and technology transfer to fill the hole left by big pharma, these companies focussed on suppressing democratic protest in order to preserve their profits.”


Notes to editors

Activists were calling pharmaceutical companies to share COVID-19 vaccine technology with the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and for governments to waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Leaked emails revealing the interaction between BioNTech and Twitter were published in The Intercept:

DRPR’s statement is available here:

An English translation of the statement (using Deepl automatic translation) is available here: 23_08_02_DRPR_Ratsbeschluss_Twitter_BioNTech_ en-US.pdf

Politico and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism revealed the pharmaceutical industry’s use of threats and lobbying against attempts to secure access to vaccine technology:

Media contact

Joe Karp-Sawey, senior media advisor, People’s Vaccine Alliance

[email protected]